I’m a big supporter of not taking yourself too seriously. From bands like Gloryhammer to movies like Tucker and Dale vs Evil, a little tongue in cheek, self deprecating humor can get you a lot of sympathy. Case in point: Bloodnut is Australian slang for redhead and the whole band pride themselves on being gingers all around. They don’t take themselves too seriously either. They list their cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love” as being ‘made, recorded and mixed by gingers. Original version by a ginger.’ Their debut cleverly references the legendary Kyuss album Blues for the Red Sun with the similar cover and title Blues from the Red Sons. But there’s a fine line between poking fun and gimmicky self-parody. Did the ginger nuts deliver a red hot album or is it soulless after all?
For all the hubbub around their hair-color, Bloodnut doesn’t use it much in their music, unless I was unaware that ginger equates to crusty sludge metal with a pinch of stoner to help the bulldozer riffs. After a short moonshine blues intro, the opening track “Agent Orange in Thine Enemies Eyes” (what a title!) shows exactly what the band is about: huge, filthy riffs with slurred and harshly belted vocals. The guitar sounds like someone blew up a bass amp with actual explosives, put the parts back together and recorded the guitar through it. The effect is a massive, grinding sound, like a chainsaw with a brain, a first cousin to Eyehategod’s sound but without the misanthropy. The bass is more audible than you’d expect underneath all that sonic violence and adds a dryer oomph, providing some nice counterbalance.
The vocals, however, are a different story. Most people tend to be sticklers for vocals, even in metal where half the vocalists are unintelligible. I’m regularly a hard sell for the same reason, but sludge and stoner have some leeway by their rough, unpolished natures. Unfortunately Bloodnut just sounds like everyone was drunk when laying down the voice tracks. The words are often incoherently slurred and don’t seem to have much bearing on the actual pitch or tempo of the music surrounding them. Vocal duties are often shared or layered, which tends to makes things worse because the voice tracks don’t always line up. Regardless of who sings, most sentences fizzle out at the end and lose all impact. “Drop Dead Redhead” uses a simpler throaty belting style that works, but “The Amber Reign Remains” is one of the worst offenders; most of the song sounds like a pair of drunk hooligans on karaoke night. The few instances of clean vocals are invariably even worse, with the pitch and inflection going all over the place. If the inebriated sound was intended as part of the tongue-in-cheek schtick, it doesn’t hit the mark, lurching from acceptable to downright irritating.
It’s a shame because instrumentally the album is very effective. The heavy, crushing sound is propelled by straightforward riffs that betray that they shared a stage with Red Fang and Black Tusk, and although now and then the songs go on for a couple bars too many it’s usually well within tolerance (with the exception of “Send in the Berzekers” which is twice the necessary length). Occasional tempo changes bring some variety to the fold, and when the pace goes down we find welcome blues influence. The closer is supported by a surprising addition of bagpipes and sports one of the better sections on the album: a pulsing beat and driven guitar lead down the center of the track. But it hits a brick wall and falls apart the moment the vocals return to the scene.
Bloodnut have a lot going for them, and I suspect these tunes can tear the venue down when played live. But as a studio album it’s impossible to overlook the ‘drunk karaoke night’ vibe of the vocals. Maybe their next album will work out better if they take that aspect a little more seriously.